Leon and I returned on September 6, 2011 from one of the best trips we have ever taken. Vancouver Island in 44 days, wildlife galore, challenging paddling, and an engagement!

A slow trip?

When Leon and I set out to do this trip, we decided to take a “slow trip” around the island to try and encourage fellow paddlers to go slower to be able to experience and see more along the way. Was 44 days slow enough? No, not really is our answer - so we will try to explain why it wasn’t. The extra time on this trip did allow for a few more days in camp when we found a beach that we really liked, Shawna had time to wander down the beach to attempt to capture what she saw with pen and water colors, and most mornings we were able to relax over 2 luscious cups of coffee! But even with more time, we found ourselves still putting in long days with an average of 20 Nautical miles on the water at an average 4 knot pace. Our longest days were 30 nautical miles. With the goal of a circumnavigation, we knew we had to keep going and make up for any time taken off, extra stops, and every extra cup of coffee we had along the way!

Friends along the way

Justine Curgenven met us in Port Hardy, taking a well deserved break form filming her new rolling video with Sheri and Turner, and she paddled with us for 10 days going around Cape Scott and the Brooks Peninsula. Another friend, Seth Albanese also joined us for the Cape Scott to Winter Harbor leg of the journey. It was nice to share stories with them both and to have someone else to witness the beauty that we were immersed in.

Some notes on the wildlife we saw. We were surprised one day in Johnstone Strait by at least 40 white sided dolphins who were jumping and playing all around us for at least 25 minutes! At Cape Scott we were so happy to see puffins! We were weathered in at Calvin Creek on Nootka Island for 3 days and each morning and each evening a wolf trotted by our campsite. The wolves we saw were incredibly athletic and confident in the way they moved, and they did not appear at all concerned that we were there taking up space on their beach! We saw numerous bears foraging on beaches, both grey and humpback whales on most days along the west coast, rafts of 50-100 sea otters, noisy sea lion colonies and all kinds of sea birds, ravens, eagles, and great blue herons. On one of our last days paddling from Sheringham Point lighthouse to just outside Victoria, we were accompanied by 20 Orca whales for 15NM. They spy hopped at the light house and then moved in our course (we were following a compass bearing from headland to headland) and surprisingly they stayed on either side of us as we continued at our current-assisted 5 knot pace! It was the best experience we have ever had paddling near these amazing animals!

Challenging seas

The two places we were most concerned about; Cape Scott and the Brooks Peninsula - we pleasantly had calm seas, a clear blue sky, and relatively light winds. Entering and leaving Tofino was a test of our navigation skills as we had nearly 0 % visibility due to fog. Going around Estevan Point got our attention with a 2 meter swell running and 15-20 knots of wind. We negotiated a challenging boomer field leaving Calvin Creek on Nootka Island, and forever we will have nightmares of the conditions while we rounded Cape Beale. We are reminded of how powerful things can get when you have an outgoing ebb current hitting a westerly 3 meter swell, all happening at once around an exposed headland.

The Engagement?

Boy (Leon) meets girl (Shawna) at a kayak rolling class back in 1991 (that is 20 years ago!). Boy looses girl (not really...but that is how it is meant to be in the movies).
Boy gets girl at Cape Scott!

Well, that is kinda the story..... Leon asked me to hike up to the Cape Scott Light house, I said I was to tired, but somehow he sweet talked me into the journey. We made the 6 mile hike, looked at the lighthouse, and walk aver to the heli-pad and he pulls this little match book box out of his pocket...and there inside was his grandma’s wedding ring...sparkling in the sun. He looked at me and said, "would you ever consider marrying me?" There was never a question in my mind if he ever asked me...and wow! That was some place to ask!. Now, we have to plan a date, a wedding, and a honeymoon. Hmmm.....

Equipment we used

We both used Kokatat Gore tex Front Entry Drysuits. We like this suit for it’s simplicity of design, incredible durability, and the performance that comes with a gore-tex dry suit. We wore them everyday on the West Coast of our trip - at least 30 days of the 44 day trip! For those easier water days on the inside, we chose our Gore tex whirlpool bibs or neo-shorts paired with the Blast Tropos top. Our bibs paired with a gore tex pac light anorak served us well as our in camp rain gear. We both used our MsFit Tour pfds - the new pocket design was so easy to access the waterproof camera, sun screen, snacks, hood, compass, and also stow our VHF radio. Shawna used the Tributary back pack for her on-water supply - with this product it is easy for her to keep hydrated throughout a 30 nautical mile day! We would not have done this trip without the help and support of Kokatat!

Shawna had a Werner Ikelos 210 bent shaft paddle for both her primary and secondary spare paddle. Leon took his Werner Ikelos 210 bent shaft paddle for his primary and a 205 Ikelos bent shaft as a secondary spare paddle. Awesome, powerful, and light are the best words to describe these paddles we used for 44 days! We wouldn’t leave home without Werner in our hands! Thank you Werner for the great design and quality.

We both used our awesome Snap Dragon Expedition Ocean Trek spray decks. Thanks Snap Dragon!! We used Outdoor research dry bags...they are fantastic and super tough! We used an awesome 4 season North Face tent and Leon used his old Sierra Designs Sandman sleeping bag from the 2003 Iceland expedition, and Shawna used a new Marmot Trestle bag. We used MSR Dragonfly stove which we have had in use since the 2003 Iceland trip! Awesome stove!

Jellyfish Award and cool stuff!

For anyone interested, we are planning to announce our Body Boat Blade Jelly Fish Award in cooperation with some leading gear manufacturers. This award and prize will be given to the first team or individual who takes our 44 day record around Vancouver Island and goes longer! You must register your attempt with us here at Body Boat Blade. Details on recording your trip will be available soon on the Body Boat Blade website. So, get busy and start planning your own slow and meandering (like a jelly fish) trip around this incredible island for 2012!

We realize that this is a bit of a late trip report as we did return to Orcas on September 6, 2011. We basically hit the ground running here at Body Boat Blade and today brings us up to date after doing a series of classes and getting caught up at the office. We hope your summer was fun, exciting, and full of days on the water like ours! Happy Paddling!

Shawna and Leon
Body Boat Blade International

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